Wednesday, October 1, 2008

MOVIES- Green Lantern Movie

Riding on the coat tails of THE DARK KNIGHT it looks like GREEN LANTERN might go into production as early as next spring. Empire Online says the movie is greenlit but careful reading of the article shows that nothing is actually confirmed.

Green Lantern has been one of my favorites since the 1960s SUPERMAN/AQUAMAN HOUR Saturday morning cartoon series, which featured the Justice League both collectively and in individual stories. When I finally bought my first GL comic I was a little confused (the cartoon had changed Pieface to an alien) but that was nothing compared to the confusion I felt when I picked up another issue a few months later.

That issue was GL 76. The title was different (suddenly it was called Green Lantern/Green Arrow), the situation was different (no intergalactic storyline- GL gets a tour of the ghetto), and the artwork was different. Boy, was the artwork different. GL’s previous artist was Gil Kane, and the art on the book was top of the heap for DC at the time. But with issue 76 the art chores were taken over by Neal Adams. I was somewhat aware of Adams already. At the time he did the majority of DCs covers and I had a couple of issues of his Brave and Bold. I had been drawing since I was able to pick up a pencil and was already pretty good at it. A big part of my love of comic books was drawing my favorite heroes. So I was an 8 year old art snob and Adams was already my favorite artist. His work on GL was simply the best I had ever seen in a comic book.

I was hooked. But back then there were no comic book stores. Comics were sold off what they called “spinner racks”, revolving wire racks that stood about 5 feet high and held a half dozen comics face out in each pocket. They were found in most grocery and drug stores and had the famous slogan “Hey kids! COMICS!” across the top. I imagine most comic book fans nowadays have never seen one. I spent the next year riding my bicycle all over town (my parents would have killed me if they had known) looking for issues. Distribution was uneven and I only found about half the issues released before the title was discontinued.

But what I did find was heady stuff. Seems a little funny to hear Christopher Nolan praised so much for making Batman real when I was watching GL and GA cross the country in a pickup truck, fighting such evils as discrimination, overpopulation, and drug abuse almost 40 years ago. This was an unprecedented stuff for comics at the time and even at eight years old I was enthralled. Even after GL returned to his spacefaring ways a few months later the tone of the stories didn’t really pull back from the "relevant" storylines. In one story a planet was in the midst of a population crisis. In another, a dimensional rift opened to a world run by amazons. Green Arrow would find out that his ward and sidekick, Speedy, was addicted to heroin. And the final issue would climax with the crucifixion of an environmentalist Christ figure, the choosing of John Stewart as GL’s replacement, and GA deciding to run for office. After GL/GA was finished, writer Denny O’Neal would join Adams to complete the revamp of Batman started in Brave and Bold, returning him to his darker roots after the lighter tone the character had taken during the Adam West Batman TV series. (The names are an odd coincidence. Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Adam West and of course the names of the Lantern and the Arrow. Once Adams was asked why Green Lantern and Green Arrow and replied, “Beats the hell out of me, ‘cause they were both green, I guess”. ) O’Neil would write some of the most memorable Batman comics of the time and create, with Adams, the character Ra’s al Ghul. Eventually he would become editor of the Batman comics for several years.

But for me the real treat was the artwork. These more realistic, socially aware stories probably wouldn’t have had the effect they did if the artwork hadn’t matched or even exceeded the realism of the writing. Personally I think Adams’ work on GL was the best work of his career and some of the best ever in comics. I guess I’m not alone in this. One famous three panel spread (pictured below) is said to be the most reproduced in comics history. Every page contained something special- odd angles, natural poses, expressive faces, minorities that looked like actual minorities rather than the white faces colored brown that was the standard at the time. Adams’ work would be so influential that the phrase “Adams clones” would become a term of derision in the industry. In spite of this many of these artists would become the best working in the medium over the next decade.

So there’s the story of my affection for the character. I feel like I’ve already seen the perfect Green Lantern movie since Adams’ artwork was like seeing stills from that movie and I greet this translation with the same fear that every comic fan feels when a cherished childhood memory is about to make the trip through the Hollywood Veg-a-matic. Years ago I fantasized about a movie of the O’Neil/Adams storyline. In my mind Bruce Campbell would play Hal Jordan while Dennis Leary was my choice for Green Arrow. That movie will never be made anywhere but in my head but this one seems to have a pretty good chance of making it to the screen. I sure hope they don’t screw it up.

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